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NEW DELHI: It is tough deciding what was incidental. Mumbai Indians entering their second Champions League T20 final to set up an all-IPL title clash against Rajasthan Royals. Or Sachin Tendulkar, after what felt like an eon’s wait, getting his fifty-thousandth run in all cricket. Both events had about them an air of inevitability. Tendulkar was just 26 away from the magic number and star-studded Mumbai were expected to steamroller their humble opponents from the Caribbean islands.
The manners of achievement, however, were far from commanding. Mumbai had to contend with four overs from the mesmeric Sunil Narine before they could reel in the 154 target. And Tendulkar, although his 31-ball 35 was studded with two sixes off a rookie spinner, looked decidedly below-par in his short stay.
Tendulkar’s unease was sidelined as much by his landmark as by opening partner Dwayne Smith, whose 38-ball 59 propelled Mumbai to 90 without loss in the 11th over. It seemed to be all over, before Narine bowled T&T back into the match with a brilliant spell of 4-0-17-3.
It Tendulkar’s wild-swipe dismissal to Lendl Simmons that triggered the slide. Narine then took out Ambati Rayudu (0) and Smith – with deliveries that spun in opposite directions – in the same over, as Mumbai lost three top-order batsmen for six runs in nine balls. But on a small ground, with a power-packed batting line-up and in a marquee match, Mumbai’s terrific start allowed them to romp home in 19.1 overs, despite a fluent Rohit Sharma (25) losing his middle-stump to Narine’s magnificent leg-spinner.
Dinesh Karthik’s neat, unbeaten 33 and cracking six off Simmons ensured that the hard-hitting skills of Kieron Pollard were not required. Pollard, however, had done enough in the first innings when his slower deliveries had restricted T&T to 153/5, a total gained thanks to opener Evin Lewis.
Lewis reveled in the pace offered by the fast bowlers and struck a 46-ball 62. He spanked Mitchell Johnson and young seamer Rishi Dhawan for sixes, before targeting off-spinner Harbhajan Singh. It was Pollard and his deceptions of pace that pulled back the visitors. The hulking West Indian caught Lewis off his own bowling in the 14th over to bring the score to 93/3, followed by which Pragyan Ojha and Coulter-Nile also turned in decent spells.
These two and Pollard bowled 10 for just 52, while Johnson, Dhawan and Harbhajan leaked 96 in their 10 overs. All-rounder Yannick Ottley, later to be consecrated as the bowler off which Tendulkar scored his 50,000th run, then smashed an unbeaten 30-ball 42, including a mini-blitz against Dhawan.